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Tag Archives: personal growth

A bit of a goal, a bit of an experiment for me in 2016 – less Social Media in my life!

Last year I was feeling stressed and realized the feeling was largely due to too many things vying for my attention. Even little things (like an email notification of a response to a social media post) that were easy enough to ignore or quickly dismiss, would take some time from my consciousness and distract me. A few seconds here and a few seconds there can add up, and especially if you think you’ve dismissed something, but the thought  remains being bounced around in your brain.

In an effort to control these distractions I have been trying to simplify my life by:

  • unsubscribing from all of those “nice to know”, “I’ll read them someday” e-mail newsletters
  • cutting back on automated e-mail notifications (especially from forums that I thought I should follow)
  • abandoning some social media platforms and
  • decreasing my activity on other social media platforms


I have been active on social media for a number of years and have enjoyed the experience. The benefits to me include:

  • retaining connections with old friends (Facebook),
  • meeting many kindred spirits, locally and from around the world (Twitter and Google+)
  • keeping in touch with local issues and activities (Twitter)
  • maintaining business contacts and connecting with professional groups  (LinkedIn)
  • sharing my art work with  a supportive art community (Twitter and my Facebook page)
  • having an outlet to express my opinions


So no doubt there has been value in social media participation but still there are the costs: my time and my serenity. So starting on 2016 January 1st, I will not be posting to Twitter, Facebook or Google+. I expect to return to these platforms someday but as I start this experiment I don’t know when that will be. I like the idea of going the whole year but concede that I might be back in two weeks. Whenever the experiment ends I hope I will have learned something and that my future use of social media will be more  productive and less of a crutch and time-waster.

I have asked myself why people (and me in particular) engage in social media. I think it comes down to the need for feedback, especially positive strokes, that affirm that we are not alone in the world and might actually have a purpose. It is that constant checking  for a “like” that keeps us coming back to the social media site and makes them so addictive. Even trolls who may not get positive feedback, do get feedback and that response from others affirms that they are alive and not alone. [This feedback of course serves to keep the trolls trolling and hence the often heard advice: Do not feed the trolls!]

On future post I will share what I am learning from this experiment – hopefully something of value to me and perhaps others.

… if you do find this (and following) posts of value please leave me a comment – I will after all be a bit starved for positive strokes with my Twitter tap turned off 😉



In my last blog entry I talked about the general pros and cons of listening to audio books as part of your personal growth strategy.  I thought I would now share with you what I’ve been listening to. These are the 5 most recent books on my player and briefly what I think about them:

How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins.(4.75 hours) As I write I am about half way through this book. It is a good one and I am eager to finish listening to it. Collins who in previous works has addressed what makes successful companies great has in this book analyzed why some corporate giants have failed in recent times. Lesson learned…I would say.

Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. (7 hours) I liked this audio book. It is a good perspective on what makes a superior leader. Boyatis has had a few previous books that are also recommended (but not by me – just yet anyway, simply because I have yet to read/listen to them)

Great Work, Great Career: How to Create Your Ultimate Job and Make an Extraordinary Contribution by Dr Stephen R. Covey and Jennifer Colosimo (3.5 hours). There is some very good advice here on how to make your work great and take your career to the next level – the key being this notion of your contribution. I’d recommend this (relatively short) book to everyone who has room to grow.

The Power of Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf (11.5 hours). This book is a collection of nine essays by the guy who coined the term “servant leadership”. To be honest I found this one a little difficult and have not yet finished listening to it. Many of the examples for the essays centre around leadership at universities and seminaries, so it does take some active listening to extend the concepts to other settings. Nonetheless, the concept of servant leadership I consider to be so important and fundamental, that I will work my way through the remaining essays of this book and most likely give most of them a second listen. I bought this book a number of years back and was quite delighted when I finally found it in audio format.

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux. (25 hours) This book has no direct link to personal growth or understanding business. It is just pure escapism for relaxation. This is the true story of the author’s epic train journey across Europe and especially Asia. More specifically it is his story of attempting to retrace the journey he had done 25 year earlier (an equally good book/ audio book entitled The Great Railway Bazaar).

I have also indicated the lengths of these audio books (all unabridged versions), which reminds me of a point I did not make in my earlier blog. We speak considerably slower than we read so the time invested in getting through an audio book is greater than if you read it (silently to yourself that is).

So what’s on your MP3 player/iPod? Feel free to share any audio book titles that you would recommend, or not!

It is through the information and experiences of others that we can accelerate our growth and development. I have always had a weakness for books and magazines (well information in general). At one time that weakness filled up many bookshelves. Today it is my hard drive that is getting filled up as I download more and more audio versions of books

In recent years I have found myself listening to books more than reading them. However, on more than a few occasions I have been compelled to purchase the physical book after discovering a particularly meaningful audio version. There are obviously differences between audio and hard-copy books – with some advantages and some disadvantages to each format.

The big benefit of audio books for me is the flexibility they offer me. They are a great way for me to make time for reading during my commute, or while I am walking about, or running errands. There is a great variety of audio books available these days -whether it’s a book about business or personal growth, a modern or classic work of fiction or a biography of an influential leader. I like to mix it up and believe there is something to be learned from all of these genres. Even if the audio is pure escapism, I think there is value in that to bring balance to a busy life. If I had to rely on spare, dedicated time for sitting down with a book, I sure wouldn’t have got through many in recent years.

While this opportunity for multi-tasking is good, there is a downside to it. Listening to a book while doing something else doesn’t always work well. Sometimes the work is just too complex (and occasionally the narration too dry) to allow for multitasking. I think here of my efforts to keep track of the characters in the novel Dune or the complex history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Some books, some messages just require your full attention, or the benefit of the visual reinforcement of seeing the words – in which case I would tend to recommend a hardcopy.

Another of the disadvantages of the audio book is that it is difficult to go at you own speed. When reading I will frequently want to quickly skim over some sections while on other sections I will shift down into low gear and read word-by-word, contemplating on each word. I will also go back and re-read a passage until I adequately understand it. This is not so easy with an audio book. Even though one can move forward and backward through the audio book version using the controls on the player application, it is awkward. You really don’t know how far forward or back you want to go and must pay careful attention to the time counter to get back to where you were. For times like these there is no beating a good old ink on paper book.

A major source of audio books for me over the last few years has been (an Amazon company). They have an extensive selection of books including many recently published books in a number of genres. The site includes book reviews, rating and sample clips. All of the books are downloaded over the net immediately after you complete the online payment. Note that Audible does use their own proprietary encoding schemes so confirm compatibility with you portable audio player. Here is a link to Audible:

Other options for audio books still include versions recorded on CD purchased from a bookstore or on-line, and the iTunes store also has a section for audio books. Whatever the source, if you want to grow and aren’t currently using audio books in your personal growth strategy – do give  some thought to doing so.

These days books are not the only form of audio that is of value. What I’ve said about audio books applies to the ever increasing number of podcasts (except with a podcast you don’t usually have the option for a printed version). I will come back to the topic of podcasts sometime in the future

If you have an opinion on audio books in general, or have any that you have found to particularly valuable, please leave a comment.

Stephen Covey’s classic book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People presents seven little gems of wisdom, but the one that has resonated most with me and has stuck in my mind is the concept of “sharpening the saw”.  To me sharpening the saw points directly at the need for on-going personal growth!

Drawing the analogy to how difficult to try to cut something with a dull saw blade, we realize that it is difficult to do any work – if the tool for the job is not sharp. However, if you keep the blade sharp the sawing is easy. Over the natural course of time and use, saws will become duller and it will take a conscious effort to restore them. Investing half an hour in sharpening the saw may end up saving hours in the work of cutting.

So it is for us too – we have a number of tools: skills and knowledge that we use in life and to do our jobs, but over the course of time through disuse, overuse, or the environment itself changing, our tools are no longer “sharp”, no longer efficient and effective. So it is essential that we, as individuals consciously make an effort to keep sharp, to keep learning, growing and developing. Also recognize that sometimes what you need to keep sharp is just balance in your life: adequate rest, nutrition and recreation.

Admittedly finding the time to invest in these proactive endeavors can be difficult, especially if when overwhelmed by a large volume of work. It is sometimes hard to justify (to ourselves as well as others) that the investment in preparing and restoring your tools will pay off in the long run. It may be difficult to provide hard proof on this on the value of “sharpening”. This supposition could be analyzed to death, cost-benefit analyses could be performed and studies conducted. However, this is one of those situations where it is best to just listen to the parable, think about it and then having the faith that it makes sense, to keep it in mind and make the personal commitment to keep your saw sharp. It will be nice if your employer supports your efforts to sharpen your tools, but keep in mind we all work for our self and ultimately it is the responsibility of the craftsman to keep their tools in optimal condition. Don’t count on a saw-sharpening fairy god mother to appear and take care of you and your tools.

So how does this apply to organization? I believe that the need to sharpen the saw does apply to organizations as well as the individuals that make up the group. Leaders of groups, large and small, must be aware that over time their tools, their resources, are going to get dull. Foresight and commitment are essential to ensure that an organization will at the least continue to function efficiently and effectively in the future and hopefully be in a position to adapt to a changing world and prosper. At a bare minimum, I recommend that organizations ensure that they have a plan and commitment to provide their staff with the education, opportunities to grow and a suitable work-life balance.

I’d be interested to hear what you think about this topic – please leave a comment if you have some experiences or opinions to share.

Here are some links to a couple of other thoughts on the concept of sharpening the saw

And here is the link to Stephen Covey’s web page: